July 04 - July 17, 2005

LC budget issue spills onto prov’l board
SP debates LC budget veto-override issue

Well on its third presentation at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) during its regular session held July 4, the question of whether members of the Laoag City council had overridden the veto of Laoag City Mayor Michael V. Fariñas with the eight votes they mustered had remained far from being resolved as members of the provincial board themselves had been divided on the issue.

Even the SP’s committee on laws had been divided in the Laoag City budget issue that two committee reports had been prepared for the board’s approval—one approving the Sangguniang Panlungsod measure and another disapproving the override.

Earlier, Fariñas vetoed some items in the budget ordinance passed by the Sangguniang Panlungsod. The city council later replied by overriding the veto of Fariñas. However, the override had been questioned by Fariñas as he reasoned that the council having 13 members should have mustered nine votes instead of eight. To override the mayor’s veto, the council needs the 2/3 votes of its total members.

The Laoag City councilors who voted to override Fariñas’ veto contended, however, that the vice mayor should not have been included in the computation of the council’s total number of members since the said presiding officer could not vote on the measure.

The controversy was further stoked when SP member Renato Ma. R. Peralta made a privilege speech on the issue stressing that the number of votes needed as per established jurisprudence and legal opinions is nine, and not eight as contended by the Laoag City councilors.

In his privilege speech, Peralta enumerated several Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) legal opinions on the issue as he urged his colleagues in the board to correct the shortcomings of lower sanggunians if and when they overstepped their limitations in crafting ordinances and resolutions supposedly intended for the good of the general public.

“As member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, among our duties include the tempering of the lower sanggunian in the province when we see, feel and believe that they have overstepped their bounds in their making of ordinances and resolutions. As their ‘elders’, or to put it more succinctly, their ‘betters’ it should be incumbent upon us to try and correct some flaws with regard to their passed ordinances either because of several technical lapses or ignorance of their limitations. On this basis, ‘we act to improve the lot of others’,” Peralta said.

Peralta, in his speech, cited several legal opinions issued by the DILG particularly the one made by then DILG Sec. Jose D. Lina Jr. when asked by Baguio City council secretary Rolando B. Perez on whether the vice mayor is a member of the council.

In his reply, Lina cited the Local Government Code provision naming the members of the legislative body of the council, which stated that the Sangguniang Panlungsod shall be composed of the city vice mayor as presiding officer, the regular sanggunian members, the president of the city chapter of the liga ng mga barangay, or the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC), the president of the panlungsod na pederasyon ng mga Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), and the sectoral representatives as members.

Peralta also mentioned another DILG legal opinion, this time made by then DILG Sec. Rafael Alunan III, in reply to a query made by then Laoag City Vice Mayor Edmund A. Ranada, which was on the same issue and which also got a similar reply.

The SP member from Laoag City further cited a specific DILG opinion issued on the query of then Bohol Governor David B. Tirol, which was also on the same override issue.

This DILG opinion specifically stated that “It appears therefore that the Sangguniang Panlalawigan thereto is composed of 14 members, and it is your contention that based on the provision of law and applicable jurisprudence, the required number of overriding vote in this instance, should be 10, in as much as 2/3 of 14 is 9.32. However, the sanggunian members claimed that with a vote of 9 it was able to override this veto. Hence, this query… Thus in overriding the veto the sanggunian has to master at least two-thirds (2/3) vote of all its members. Mathematically, 2/3 of 14 is 9.32. The problem is what to do with the fraction of .32. It is, however, a rule in parliamentary procedure that where a required proportion or percentage of the vote of the governing body results in so many votes and a fraction, it is necessary to count the fraction as a whole vote, even though this results in a greater percentage of the whole body in such instance than would be the case if the body were equally divisible by said percentage into whole numbers. (62 C.J. S. 764, Donney vs. Smith, 147 P.ed. 771, 194 Okl. 106).”

Using this opinion, Peralta then expounded that the Laoag City council having 13 members should have at least mustered nine votes to override the veto as he explained that the 2/3 of 13 is 8.67 and even with mathematical rules, rounding off 8.67 to the nearest whole number is nine, fractions in parliamentary procedure, as stated in the DILG legal opinion, should still be counted as a whole number, and thus would also result in nine.

However, Peralta also mentioned another DILG legal opinion which stated that the vice mayor, although a member of the council and is counted when the council’s 2/3 is being computed, cannot vote for any other instance except when to break a tie. In the same DILG opinion, then Sec. Lina asked those who wanted to make the vice mayor able to vote when the vote of the entire membership is necessary to address the matter to Congress for it to amend the Local Government Code.

Peralta also scored the Laoag City council for going over its limits when it deleted appropriations for the projects formulated by the City Development Council (CDC) as, according to provincial legislator, the only the thing the council could do with CDC proposals is “to pass an appropriations ordinance for it.”

He went on to cite another DILG legal opinion which stated that the council cannot revise plans submitted by the CDC as the council is represented in the CDC and any opposition to CDC plans should be uttered during CDC deliberations.

In ending his privilege speech, Peralta appealed to his colleagues at the provincial board for them to correct the lapses by the inferior sanggunian for if they do not, “This would set a very bad precedent where not only may we be all held accountable for later, but would embolden other inferior sanggunians to transgress their Constitutional limits and proceed to pass faulty ordinances that in the end may hurt their respective constituents more than it could help them.”

Responding to Peralta’s privilege speech, SP ex-officio member Vicentito M. Lazo, who is among the Laoag City councilors who voted to override Fariñas veto, argued with Peralta’s opinions saying the DILG merely supervises the activities of the local sanggunian and has no power of control over them.

Lazo further stated that the DILG decisions are merely legal opinion and hence, not absolutely a gospel of truth.

Meanwhile, in an effort to settle the legal issue once and for all, SP member Ameurfina A. Respicio, committee on laws chair, recommended that the board members be given more time to analyze the contentions of the proponents of the opposing views.

The issue is expected to be settled on the board’s next regular session.

Leilanie G. Adriano

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